News & Insights

Licensing – the role of the DPS

What is the Designated Premises Supervisor’s role in a premises supplying alcohol?  Surprisingly, the legal role is not clearly defined as Mark Banham explains.

As everyone who works or advises in relation to alcohol sales knows, the boss needs to be registered as the Designated Premises Supervisor.  Don’t they?

Well, perhaps surprisingly, the law is not that clear about what seems to be such a fundamental principle.  The Licensing Act 2003 covers the role of the DPS almost in passing – s.19 of the Act (by a slightly roundabout route) makes it a requirement there has to be someone registered as DPS for the premises in order for alcohol supplies to be lawful, and the DPS must hold a current personal licence.  Even s.19, however, then waters down the restriction by only saying that the people actually serving the drinks have to be authorised by “a” person who holds a personal licence, which need not be the DPS for the premises.

The 2003 Act also allows the Police, in exceptional circumstances, to object to the appointment of someone as the DPS for a premises if such appointment would in their view undermine the Crime and Disorder licensing objective.  We have come across this relatively recently where a proposed DPS was unpectedly charged with a serious sexual offence (in that example the charges were unjustified and were later withdrawn, but by then somone else had been appointed).

That’s it as far as the law goes; you need to have a DPS, but there is no statutory definition of what the DPS does, and the Police can object to a new DPS on Crime and Disorder grounds.

The intention behind the role of DPS is fleshed out in the Statutory Guidance issued by the Home Office.  From there, we find that the DPS should “normally” be the person who has day-to-day control over the business, or who is responsible for running the premises.  The Guidance explains that the DPS ought to be the person who the Police or local authority can contact if there is a problem, particularly an urgent problem, that needs to be resolved.  However, there is nothing wrong with a person being the DPS for several premises (and this is quite common in practice, particularly in relation to local groups of shops or across several hotels).

The Guidance is only guidance.  It is not legally binding, although departures from the Guidance (and the reasons for those) will be taken into account if there is a subsequent issue that results in a Review of the Premises Licence.  Note that even the Guidance only says that the DPS should “normally” be the person in control of the premises, not that they “should always” be, or “must” be.  There is clearly some sensible space left for practical reality to intrude.

There is no requirement that the DPS must be present all the time, or even in immediate contact.  The DPS can, for example, go on holiday without having to amend the licence by appointing a replacement.  It is not unusual for DPSs to remain on the licence for an interim period between leaving a premises and the appointment of their successor.  If so, arrangements ought to be made between the DPS and the owner of the premises to ensure that the staff remain properly authorised and trained, that the DPS can still be satisfied that the premises will be run properly and that if the authorities contact the DPS satisfactory action will be taken.  But these are all practical arrangements designed to make sure that the premises remains properly run, not things that the law insists are the DPS’s responsibility.

Despite there being no legal definition of the role, the DPS is an important figure in the running of an alcohol-licensed premises, and it is crucial that every DPS and premises licence-holder knows where they stand.  If you have any questions about your job or business, you can always call our team of licensing specialists.